Lydia Jenkin is an entertainment feature writer for the New Zealand Herald.

Silicon wins Taite Prize for 2016

Kody Nielson's computer inspired his winning solo act, Silicon.
Kody Nielson's computer inspired his winning solo act, Silicon.

Tonight Kody Nielson's solo act, Silicon, was named winner of the Taite Prize for 2016, for his album Personal Computer.

The prestigious annual prize, which comes with $10,000 prize money, is in its seventh year, and is awarded by an industry panel for creative excellence.

Nielson's conceptual, electronic-based RnB-soul-funk record was lauded for its innovation and vision, and beat albums from The Phoenix Foundation, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, SJD, Marlon Williams, Anthonie Tonnon, Nadia Reid, and Princess Chelsea.

"I feel weird [about winning] because the other albums nominated are huge," Nielson said.

Silicon aka Kody Nielson.
Silicon aka Kody Nielson.

When speaking to TimeOut last year about the record, he explained that inspiration was drawn from spending a lot of time alone with a computer, and considering how greatly personal technology has permeated our everyday lives.

"I suppose I was trying to make something that represents machine and human. I kept thinking about how people get so into their devices, so they create these personas for their machines, almost - it becomes really personal to them.

"So it might be really expressive and human and emotional, but it's still going through this silicon filter, coming through the devices. I was thinking about that a lot. And how people kind of trust their computers so much."

He explained that the sonic landscape, created entirely by himself was a kind of reaction to a lot of other music he's worked on.

"That made me want to do something super-simple, something really plain and straightforward and almost generic. With this I actually wanted it to be softer and nicer on the ear. I didn't want it to be jumping out. I had the idea it would sort of almost be in the background. Not seeking attention necessarily."

It received plenty of attention nonetheless, earning rave reviews and fans all over the world, though the generally shy and reserved Nielson was clearly surprised by the award.

He doesn't have immediate plans for a follow-up, and the first thing he's keen to do with the prize money is to fix his Wurlitzer electric piano, before continuing with projects he's working on with his partner, Bic Runga, and brother Ruban Nielson (Unknown Mortal Orchestra).

"I've just finished recording a new song with Bic and also just finished a new single with UMO. At some point I'll release another album too."

Also presented at the ceremony - in front of around 300 invited guests at Galatos in Auckland - was the Independent Music NZ Classic Record, which aims to acknowledge New Zealand's rich history of making fine albums that continue to inspire us and define who we are. This year's panel have given the nod to Upper Hutt Posse for their record E Tu, released in 1988 by Jayrem Records.

Tame Iti was on hand to present the record to the group (which includes Dean Hapeta, Matthew Hapeta, DLT, and Teremoana Rapley), and congratulate them on E Tu's significance in a political and cultural sense as well as a musical one. The evening was capped off by a medley of songs from all the Taite Prize finalists by Leonard Charles (aka Jeremy Toy from She's So Rad).

- TimeOut

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